Michelle Waterson: On UFC, MMA, and Not Giving Up

LAS VEGAS, NEVADA - JULY 9:   Michelle Waterson poses for a portrait during a UFC photo session inside the MGM Grand Garden Arena on July 9, 2015 in Las Vegas, Nevada. (Photo by Jeff Bottari/Zuffa LLC/Zuffa LLC via Getty Images)

Michelle Waterson, fighter extraordinaire.


The 29-year-old is an MMA goddess, and formerly held an Invicta FC Atomweight Champion title. Waterson has appeared on numerous reality TV shows — including Fight Girls on Oxygen and MTV/MTV2‘s Bully Beatdown. Nicknamed the “Karate Hottie,” Waterson forayed into the world of UFC fighting earlier this year. Aside from her role inside the Octagon, she’s also mother to her 4-year-old daughter. Waterson spoke with Lady Clever about her training regimen, her time on reality TV, and the best advice she’s ever gotten and given.

What first interested you in martial arts?

My older brother was interested in it, so I wanted to tag along. That’s how this whole thing started.

When did you know you wanted to make UFC your career?

I lost my Invicta belt and felt like that freed up my obligation of being that champ. UFC was a hidden opportunity for a different career path.

Can you give us a brief glimpse into what your day-to-day life is like when you’re training for an upcoming match?

I wake up around 7AM to get my little one to school. Then, I go to the gym and practice. I’ll get a quick bite, then practice some more. Then I pick up my daughter from school, will go for a run or practice and then get things ready for the following day. I basically practice 3 -4 times a day.

How do you feel about being nicknamed the “Karate Hottie”? I’m sure it’s flattering, but does it ever bother you that your looks and sex appeal are factored into your public persona, when athleticism is the only thing that’s focused on for male UFC fighters?

You know, if that bothered me, I wouldn’t allow it to be my nickname. It’s catchy and that’s the point of a nickname. Once you see me fight, you know there’s a lot more to me than that.

Michelle Waterson (r) fighting in Women’s Strawweight Bout during July’s UFC Finale in Las Vegas

Recently, athletes like you and Ronda Rousey have been spending more time in the public eye and shining a light on female UFC fighters. What do you feel like is your role as a role model to young women? Is there a specific message you’d like them to receive by seeing you?

The most important message is this: If you have a dream, do not let up on the gas until your dream is fulfilled. Everything is achievable — you just have to practice persistence and patience.

What’s the relationship like between male and female UFC fighters? Do you have any friendships with them, or are you fairly separated? Do you ever hear sexist comments from male fighters, or are they generally supportive?

Between family and training, I don’t have much time to interact with other UFC fighters. However, I do have a lot of close UFC fighter friends who train in my gym. The guys treat me like a fighter… gender isn’t really a factor. We have mutual respect for one another.

You’ve also been on several reality shows. What’s it like having to keep up a filming schedule while you’re training for a match?

Most of the time I wasn’t training for a crazy fight when I’ve been on a reality show. It’s all about prioritizing your schedule.

Real talk: have you ever said or done anything on reality TV you’ve regretted?

Oh, yes! It’s funny because my brother would always say to me: “The world is watching. Set a good example.” One morning, I woke up with crazy “morning face” and little shorts. I was definitely not camera-ready and the cameras were all in my face! I was trying to run away from the cameras with my little shorts on. And guess what? It’s the clip that ended up being shown everywhere! So embarrassing.

MichelleWaterson.MediaDay 2Having had reality TV as a platform, what kinds of truths were you hoping to share with your audience and the world?

It was just nice for people to see that we are normal people. Our society is so drawn to drama. I think it’s nice for people to see the side of people that is genuine, not made up drama.

What’s the best piece of advice you’ve ever been given?

My dad used to always tell me: “Don’t let anyone stand in the way of your dreams, not even yourself.”

And finally — what is one piece of advice you’d like to offer young girls?

Don’t put yourself into the category of being a young girl. Don’t be a victim, and be the best at what you want to do.

Waterson’s definitely a champ — inside and outside of the Octagon.

Keep up with Michelle Waterson and her upcoming matches on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.